Harry Redknapp’s knack of storytelling was a major part of why he won I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! on Sunday.
But behind the genial smiles, the matey back-patting and the obvious delight when he was crowned King of the Jungle lies a devastating sadness that Harry has carried for the last three decades.
Harry – married to his childhood sweetheart Sandra Redknapp – was involved in a fatal road traffic accident at the 1990 World Cup in Italy, when he was then the manager of Bournemouth FC.
He and close friend Brian Tiler – the club’s managing director – had been out for drinks at a hotel to watch some of the games when tragedy struck.
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Brian Tiler died in the wreckage of the crash
In Harry’s 1998 autobiography Always Managing, the I’m A Celeb winner recalled: "In the minibus on the way back to the hotel most of us were either asleep or dozing. That’s as much as I can remember.
"Then, at around midnight, in a place called Latina, just south of Rome, I’m told a car hurtled towards us on the wrong side of the road.
"I’m told it was going 90 miles per hour. I’m told the smash was so horrific that it was a miracle anyone got out alive. Brian didn’t. Nor did the occupants of the other car, three Italian lads who all died instantly."
He went on: "The force of the impact threw me out of the minibus and knocked me unconscious. I was then dragged away from the mangled wreckage, covered in petrol, by Michael Sinclair, who was petrified by the thought that it would all explode."
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Doctors believed Harry was dead due to the severity of the crash
Paramedics who rushed to the scene initially thought Harry had also died in the horror crash, and even pulled a blanket over his head.
Harry woke up in hospital two days later missing his watch and other possessions – and totally unaware that his best friend had died.
"The doctors, I’m told, also thought I was dead upon arrival at the hospital. But I was lucky. I had fractured my skull, broken several bones, and suffered a horrific gash to my leg, but I don’t think the injuries, though serious, were ever life-threatening, despite those first impressions," he wrote.
It was then the devastating news of Brian’s death was broken to him.
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Harry has never forgotten his mate
(Image: Clive Rose)
"I wasn’t told of Brian’s death until long after I regained consciousness. I couldn’t believe it. My mate. We had gone through so much together and shared so many laughs. Gone. Just like that."
It was never confirmed whether the driver of the other vehicle had been drinking at the time of the tragedy, Harry said.
His wife has also been through family heartbreak, which Harry has shared with her through their 54 years together.
Sandra sadly lost her twin sister Patricia Lampard – mother of footballer Frank Lampard – 10 years ago.
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Sandra’s twin sister Pat sitting with her son Frank and husband Frank Sr before her death
(Image: PA Archive/PA Images)
On April 24 2008, Sandra received the news that she was dreading: that Pat had died in hospital.
Pat, just 58, was admitted ten days earlier but succumbed to severe pneumonia.
Her death rippled throughout the family, with Frank paying tribute to his beloved mum on his wedding day in 2015 when he married Christine Bleakley.
Frank had always wished that his mum could have met The One Show host and got ‘very choked up’ when speaking about her absence during his wedding speech.
Pat’s death led to Sandra and Harry becoming fundraising presidents of Southampton-based charity Leukaemia Busters.
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